By SARAH DEKDEKEN
BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) successfully convened its 11th Regional Congress which started on the International Human Rights Day, December 10, to December 12, 2017. On the theme “Rupaken ti Pasista a Rehimen nga US-Duterte. Situtured nga Iyabante ti Dangadang para iti Nagtaudan a Daga, Bukod a Pangngeddeng ken Nailian a Demokrasya! “(Resist the Fascist US-Duterte Regime. Courageously Advance the Struggle for Ancestral Land, Self-Determination and National Democracy!).
The 11th congress attained its objectives of further strengthening and consolidatating CPA in the face of heightening State fascism and human rights violations.
Two hundred fifty delegates, observers and guests participated in the Congress, coming from the CPA chapters in the 6 Cordillera provinces, inter-provincial chapter in Benguet-Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur, special chapter in Manila, regional sectoral and multisectoral alliances of women, youth, workers, peasants, elders, human rights and cultural workers.
Guests and solidarity partners present included KATRIBU-Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, KALUMARAN and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organisations in Southern Mindanao Region, Taiwan (Hunter School) and Japan (Buraku-Liberation League-Hiroshima).
The congress kicked off with a colorful and militant march-rally in commemoration of the 69th International Human Rights Day on December 10, with the participation of various sectors and organizations based in Baguio City. During the program, key messages and challenges posed to the public include the need to rise up to resist fascism and tyranny, a stop to extrajudicial killings and various human rights violations, for trumped-up charges against activists and human rights defenders to be dropped, and for the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to address the roots of the armed conflict in the country.
In her keynote address, CPA pioneer Joanna K. Cariño underscored the achievements and the lessons drawn from the decades of CPA’s work in defending Cordillera indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral domains, self-determination and national democracy.
Cariño stressed that the present attacks against the people under the fascist US-Duterte regime is reminiscent of the open fascist rule during the Marcos Dictatorship, with obvious parallelisms on the total disregard for human rights, allowing the military and police to commit human rights violations with impunity, silencing critics and curtailing democratic rights. She challenged the delegates to build more strength and courage to defend peoples’ rights against the fascist US-Duterte regime. Cariño is also the Co-Convenor of SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, while remaining active in the CPA Advisory Council.
The congress studied and united on its analysis of the current situation and issues in the region and the country, with presentations on the National Situation by BAYAN, Cordillera Situation shared by APIT TAKO, and the Mindanao Experience on Asserting Peoples’ Rights shared by PASAKA.
This was further enriched through the experiences shared by provincial delegates on asserting human rights through people’s resistance. Capping these were inputs from the CPA Advisory Council on the continuing need to assert peoples’ rights through peoples’ resistance and collective action. Other pioneers of the CPA delivered challenging and inspiring messages to the congress, including Lakay Banag Sinumlag.
Among the highlights is the expansion of CPA’s membership, from 27 founding organisations in 1984 to 307 based on the reports of different chapters during the congress.
Resolutions passed include the affirmation of CPA’s role in asserting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights, assertion of Igorot people’s culture and identity, especially in times of resistance and struggle, and resolution to organise a regionally-centralised peoples’ Cordillera Day on April 24, 2018. The congress also passed its three-year program for 2018-2020.
The CPA Executive Committee of the 11th Congress are: Chair: Windel Bolinget (re-elected), Vice Chair for External Affairs: Jill Cariño (re-elected), Vice Chair for Internal Affairs: Santos Mero, Secretary General: Bestang Dekdeken, Deputy Secretary General: Aisah Mariano, Treasurer: Abigail Anongos, Auditor: Georgia Velasco.
Cordillera heroes and martyrs were remembered and offered a tribute in recognition of their significant contribution to the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for peoples’ rights. These include CPA pioneers Atty. William “Billy” Claver, Padi Eduardo Solang, Prof. Manny Loste, Lakay Bon-as Ayabo, Mother Endena Cogasi, Jean Macliing, and others. All are known for their steadfast defense of human rights, genuine freedom and democracy and resistance to martial law. Cordillera heroes and martyrs continue to inspire CPA members in defending our rights to our ancestral lands and self determination.
The congress also formalized the solidarity partnership between CPA and Hunter School-Taiwan through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for a cooperative and mutually beneficial partnership in promoting indigenous peoples’ rights. CPA and Hunter School exchanged tokens symbolizing each one’s commitment to the partnership.
The books: “Dap-ay Discourse Uno” authored by Benedict Solang and “Lakay Billy, Defender of Indigenous Peoples Rights” authored by Luchie Maranan were launched and dedicated to the CPA, its founding members and the current and future generations of Igorots.
The congress culminated in a solidarity gathering in the evening of December 12, with different indigenous dances, songs and chants presented by the delegates. Messages of solidarity from partners, advocates and friends were also read.
Upon learning about the illegal arrest of environment and human rights activist Sherwin de Vera on the evening of December 12, the congress delegates expressed condemnation and called for his immediate release. Sherwin is the regional coordinator of Defend Ilocos and is a researcher of the Regional Development Center-Katinnulong Dagiti Umili iti Amianan a Luzon (RDC-Kaduami), and a writer of this local newspaper.
The CPA thanks the Beaconsfield Initiative, Land is Life, United Church of Canada, Primates World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), International Union for Nature Conservation-National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN-NL), and other solidarity partners and advocates for supporting the congress and for standing by CPA through the years.# nordis.net